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The (Last) Big Day Out

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(THE LAST) BIG DAY OUT
Arena Joondalup
Sunday, February 2, 2014

With the news that this was to be the last Big Day Out in Perth, it was hard not to ponder the many BDOs past. Since it first visited Perth in 1993, the Big Day Out set the benchmark for festivals in this country, becoming a well-known and well-loved Australian institution internationally.

It was sad that due to various circumstances Blur pulled out, the festival was forced to move to Joondalup with a scaled- down production. There was no Lilypad, no local stage, no fair rides, and numbers were way down on previous years, but there were still a lot of great bands and much fun to be had.

Perhaps fittingly, the scaled-down set-up of Perth’s last Big Day Out made the festival somewhat reminiscent of its earlier ’90s versions, with no D-fence barricade on the main stages, no fairground rides and smaller crowds (19,000 all up) making it easier to get around and get a good spot.

Local four piece, From The Dunes, inaugurated the Headspace stage, getting off to a rocky start when they managed to blow an amplifier on their first song. Technical difficulties were soon sorted out, though, and they gave the small but appreciative crowd (a phrase that could be slotted into any given paragraph here without seeming out of place) a good show. Definitely down the more commercial end of the dirtied-up rock spectrum, they should be a long runner if songs like White Line Fever, off their upcoming second EP, are anything to judge by.

At the Orange StagePortugal. The Man played a stylish set to just several hundred early punters – alas, a rarely encountered treat. Over on the distant Red Stage Toro Y Moi AKA South Carolina producer Chaz Bundick, brought his full live band to bring some smooth, summery synth-pop vibes to brighten everyone’s afternoon. Somewhere in the chillwave, electro vein of Metronomy, Bundick is one cool cat with a polished live sound – taking centre stage on keyboards and vocals, while bass, drums and guitar fleshed things out, in a set that included the slinky groove of Too Many Details and Say That.

Melbourne’s Kingswood are born crowd-pleasers, delivering catchy, hooky guitar rock coupled with an easy stage presence that invites all and sundry to join the party. They’re a fun band, dealing in no-nonsense rock and roll with plenty of swagger. They saved their big radio hit, Ohio Man, for the last, which was a smart move, but maybe over-extending the audience call-and-response singalong wasn’t. Still, that was a minor misstep in an otherwise solid set.

Over in the Boiler Room, Colorado electronic duo Big Gigantic were going hard early as ravers danced to electro-house, dubstep and trap with the odd addition of live saxophone over the top, as well as drums. Their Let Me See Your Hips Swing remix got many moving, but it wasn’t until their final track that the Boiler Room suddenly began to swell… with people rushing in to secure a spot for the next act – Sydney indie-dance band, Rüfüs – a popular drawcard with three tracks in the recent triple j Hottest 100.

The Drones would be used to playing packed out houses when they make their way over to Perth such is their allure, so it would have been somewhat of a shock for them to be able to see some green grass around the punters. Local boy Gareth Liddiard has his guitar strung lower with each year and reminded all of his local knowledge by saying that the last time he was at Arena Joondalup ‘this place was fucking bush, and I got a kangaroo tick’. As always, The Drones’ swampy blues rock was of a high standard as they treated all to a rocking set including newer tracks How To See Through Fog and Laika.

Youthful Manchester chaps The 1975 could lay claim to pulling the crowd with the youngest median age at the final Big Day Out with their set of breezy pop tunes. Mathew Healy played the part of quaint frontman perfectly, while Adam Hahn stole the limelight with his charismatic guitar playing. The City, Girls and Sex were all stellar and Healy ended the set atop the kick drum and dropped his guitar in rock n roll fashion. Nice one!

On the small and strangely located Headspace stage, which was positioned en route to the Boiler Room and Red Stage, Rémi Gallego AKA French electronic producer,The Algorithmpositioned himself behind a laptop and mixer with partner-in-crime – Mike Malyan of UK prog metal band, Monuments, on a drums, to make their Australian debut to a few people and random passers by. Even if you were standing right in front of the stage, the wind at Arena Joondalup seemed to blow away the sound and not even a special guest appearance from Karnivool’s Jon Stockman on bass could save the Frenchman’s day.

Not many people saw what was undoubtedly one of the acts of the day, Australian larrikin rockers, Cosmic Psychos, and more’s the pity, but everyone who did see them had a blast. Tongue firmly in cheek and amps firmly twisted to 11, Ross Knight and co started in with Pub and kept the pedal down for a short, sharp set, punctuating songs like Dead In A Ditch and Nice Day To Go To The Pub with plenty of self-deprecating humour, ending with the now-traditional Mooning Of The Audience. These are definitely blokes you can trust to put on a good show.

There is something about Mudhoney that makes them just look and sound like a band. Their more favoured friends were to be headlining later in the night, but the seminal Seattle quartet braved the mid-afternoon sun to show punters how to play a rock show. In ‘n Out Of Grace was thrown out pretty early to put people into a timewarp harking back to when the Big Day Out first came into being. When not bludgeoning his guitar Mark Arm prowled the stage like a caged animal. Whether playing old favourites Touch Me I’m Sick or new material like The Only Son Of The Widow From Nain, Mudhoney made the other bands look like kids playing with toys.

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Tame Impala attracted a decent crowd on the main stage, and while it was a solid, crowd-pleasing set from the boys. Despite perhaps reaching the point of overexposure, people still can’t seem to get enough of Solitude Is Bliss, Why Wont You Make Up Your Mind and Feel Like We Only Go Backwards.

Kevin Parker seemed very relaxed in front of the hometown crowd, breaking up songs with friendly banter, “Hi guys in the licensed area! I like you guys. They are like, ‘I hell wanna see Tame Impala, but I hell wanna keep drinking!’”. Also introducing Steve on bass, who was filling in for Cam Avery, who had apparently double-booked himself, he encouraged the crowd to shout ‘Cam Avery is a nob’, then introducing the “song to go crazy to!” as they launched into the chugging riff of Elephant, before finishing on Apocalypse Dreams.

UK-based Japanese four-piece, Bo Ningen showcased the other end of the psych spectrum taking it to its wackiest punk extreme and coupling it with a mesmerising performance to boot. Looking like wizards in a Decore shampoo commercial, the band translated the recorded material off their latest album, Line The Wall along with unheard tracks off their forthcoming third album, to a fascinated bunch of onlookers. Tracks were jammed out and melded into one another, as they conjured up an on-stage frenzy that entailed math rock precision, chaotic noise breakdowns, a ton of riffage, and vocals that were either drowned in reverb or in a frenzied, high-pitched falsetto – all incompressible in Japanese.

The Lumineers hadn’t made their way to Perth before and pulled a crowd that would have fared favourably on one of the main stages. From the moment Wesley Schultz appeared and hung his hat on the neck of his guitar as he launched into Classy Girls, he had the crowd hanging off his every word (as well as singing at the top of their lungs). A version of Sawmill Joe’s Ain’t Nobody’s Problem had Stelth Ulvang playing notes on the piano with his big toe but the high point for many was when Schultz took his guitar to a microphone set up in the crowd to play an intimate version of Ho Hey.

Primus are a quirky, truly original, virtuosic and never less than fascinating live attraction. Admitting that he’s never one to play a ‘greatest hits’ set, Les Claypool and his band of merry gentlemen delivered a challenging and exciting collection instead, though he did drop in a snippet of his much-loved South Park TV theme tune. My Name Is Mud and Jerry Was A Race Car Driver kept the wackiness full steam ahead and closer Tommy The Cat ended the set on a high.

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Despiteperforming quite uncharacteristically in the daylight, The Hives broughthumour, class and good old-fashioned showbiz to the Big Day Out. The arrogance of singer Pelle Almqvist is astounding yet somehow completely worthy and just downright charming. It was a greatest hits set from a band whose stagecraft is second to none and the audience had the time of their lives. The Hives deserve their own Big Day Out.

There was no mistaking who was on next – Beady Eye declared the giant, bold, black letters on the white backdrop. The band that is essentially Oasis without Noel, has been touring their second album, BE, and it was their first time here. Strutting onto the stage without much ado, the lads launched into opening track, Flick Of The Finger.

Sporting a crop cut, looking a bit older and harder these days, Liam Gallagher is still every part the rock’n’roll star. Never ones to showboat – the lads don’t jump around much, but brimming with attitude, they assumed their positions. Liam as ever, leaning, arms behind back, head cocked – that distinct, snarling voice, still in top form. Despite a smaller crowd than he’d be accustomed to, he belted it out as if it was Wembley.

The sound could have been louder, with more bottom end, but despite this it was a cracking set from the boys featuring Face The Crowd, Four Letter Word and Soul Love, all sounding great live. It was a real turning point for the day when they pulled out the Oasis classic, Cigarettes & Alcohol, and did it justice.

The opening strum of Wonderwall incited hollers from the crowd as well as a mass sing-along. Liam declared, “Perth you’re ‘avin it more than the rest of them!”. A rare compliment from the man. They wound up the set with The Roller and a superb cover of The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter.

While CSS closed the Headspace stage with their cheeky Brazilian diversity, Vista Chino strolled onstage with no fanfare or pretence and proceeded to do what they do: stoner rock so dry and rich that it could have blown in on the last zephyr from the desert. Starting with a couple from their recent Peace album, the rest of the set was given over to Kyuss classics (3/4 of this band having reunited from those days, albeit under a different name for legal reasons.) Neither John Garcia nor his bandmates said a word to engage the small crowd during the entire set, letting the music do the talking, but despite initial low volume and energy levels, things ramp up through One Inch Man, Freedom Run and Thumb.

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Bursting onstage in a flurry of colourful outfits and giant papier-mache heads, Arcade Fire launched into the title track of their latest opus, Reflektor, and for the next hour-and-a-half, it was one big party on stage, as they totally owned it – the band and crowd locked in mutual celebration.

Win Butler wasted no time in getting amongst it, jumping down into the crowd, grabbing the phone of a crowd member who was filming and taking it back on stage with him to take some priceless footage for the fan.

Neighbourhood #3 from their first album Funeral saw eight of the 10 members singing. What makes Arcade Fire so incredible is their sheer musicianship. With 10 band members on stage, all multi-instrumentalists, it’s amazing the fluid way they move between instruments throughout the set. Travelling with the group on this tour were original members Owen Pallet and Sarah Neufeld as well as two additional percussionists – there were a lot of drums!

Offsetting the activity on stage were four giant, ominous, reflective silver shapes suspended above them that moved and twisted in different configurations.

With four albums behind them, it was a stellar setlist encompassing all, including The Suburbs, Neighbourhood #1, Keep The Car Running, Afterlife and Sprawl II that saw the charming Régine Chassagne take lead vocals, dancing round the stage with infectious enthusiasm, twirling streamers gripped in her pink gloves.

As darkness descended, the undoubted highlight, possibly of the whole festival, was the epic Here Comes The Night Time which climaxed in an explosion of confetti as the drums kicked into double-time, sending the crowd into a moshing frenzy. There was no other way to finish it off than with their classic Wake Up, which had the whole crowd screaming along with them into the night sky. A truly defining performance from one of the best bands in the world right now.

The Boiler Room this year had gone back its roots as a giant tent from the Bassendean days, and while not the finest line-up it’s seen, Sydney wunderkind Flume pulled a big crowd to watch him do his thing, and Mad Decent crew Flosstradamus and Dillon Francis laid down some dark and heavy, bass and trap sounds.

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Meanwhile Mad Decent head honcho Diplo was blowing shit up on the Red Stage with his Major Lazer project, following on from the reincarnated Snoop Dogg/Lion who was touring his recent reggae album produced by Diplo – the born again rasta showing the crowd his more laidback, peace-loving side.

With the majority of peeps over at Snoop, Swedish metal six-piece, Ghost turned on the theatrics over on the JBL Stage. As the three black-robed and masked guitarists made their entrance basked in red lights and to baritone chants, everyone knew that they were about to witness a spectacle. It’s not really black metal, if it is, then it’s the most diluted in pop that you’re ever going to hear it – more Alice Cooper than say, Black Sabbath. Papa Emeritus II commands his nameless ghouls as a fatherly Roman Catholic Cardinal and not the evil entity you’d perhaps rather him be – ‘we’re a pretty rocking band, eh?’ he stated, humorously, and that they were, as a few hundred people sang the lyrics to Monstrance Clock‘come together, together as one… for Lucifer’s son’ – a finale that rounded out an ultra slick sound and impeccable performance.

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There’s no doubt who the stars of the show are, and regardless of where everyone was hiding all day ($100 discount tickets available after 6pm may have helped), it was all hands on deck by 8 o’clock for Pearl Jam to rip straight into a fiery Go.

Eddie Vedder’s a real ‘man of the people’ – a wildly charismatic frontman who has struggled with the attention and responsibility that comes with that. As he swigged from a bottle or two of red wine, and slowed things down to ensure no-one had fallen in the pit (no-one wants a repeat of Roskilde 2000) and jokes about his favourite Perth place names (winner – Dog Swamp), he and the band eschew any hint of artifice or pretence.

After 90 minutes of rock that include a near-perfect Jeremy and a stirring Rearviewmirror, they took a short break before Vedder sidles amiably back and asked “still here?”

An acoustic shot at Hunters’ & Collector’s Throw Your Arms Around Me was followed by a round of Happy Birthday for keysman Bob Gaspar and a rollicking version of Victoria Williams’ Crazy Mary. The whole band were sensational, especially bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Mike McCready.

Pearl Jam are a great rock’n’roll band, and lovely extended versions of Black and Porch followed, before Arcade Fire’s Win Butler joined them for a triumphant run through Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World, proving their status without a doubt.

Over on the JBL stage, Californian nu metal veterans Deftones drew a small, but dedicated and passionate crowd who were treated to an intimate, powerful performance. An awesome lighting setup and loud, clear sound combined with their distinct ferocious sound and Chino Moreno’s theatrical antics. A blistering version of Change (In The House Of Flies) had the crowd going wild, Moreno commenting, “I love it when we come to Perth, it’s always poppin’.” Mac Miller even made a special appearance near the end to spit a few rhymes with his new friends.

Thanks for the memories, Big Day Out. You proved in all the right (and the wrong) ways that there’s no business like showbusiness.

 

RACHEL DAVISION, BOB GORDON, ALFRED GORMAN, CHRIS HAVERCROFT, TRAVIS JOHNSON & SHANE PINNEGAR

 

One Comment

  1. Pingback: X-Press Mag Review of From the Dunes @ Big Day Out 2014 | From The Dunes

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